Harry Belafonte At Stanford: “We
Won Them All”
Oakland, California May 9, 2014
Last week, Harry Belafonte delivered a lecture entitled “Activism and Racial Justice in America.” Sponsored by Stanford University’s African and African-American Studies Department and its director, H. Samy Ali, a noted hip-hop authority, Belafonte delivered the annual St. Clair Drake Memorial lecture to a crowd of undergraduate and graduate students packed into the Business School Auditorium. Angela Davis delivered the 2012 St. Clair Drake Memorial lecture named for Stanford’s first Black Studies director. At the age of 87, Harry Belafonte has been getting a lot of news coverage for many of his recent comments and criticisms. And those who attended Belafonte’s Stanford lecture in hopes of hearing something controversial were not disappointed. Early on in his lecture, the New York-born Jamaican proudly announced that he and the other leaders of his generation were responsible for the significant achievements of the civil rights era. Then after boasting that “We won every battle,” the legendary entertainer raised more than a few eyebrows by blaming the students in his audience for losing all that was gained by such radicals as Martin Luther Ling, Jr, Malcom X, Paul Robeson, Rosa Parks and W.E.B. DuBois.
“Through their inattention and greed,” Belafonte said, “members of the current post-racial generation have squandered the precious gift of civil rights, and especially voting rights, that was passed to them by my generation.”
Belafonte continued by lecturing his audience of graduate and undergraduate students about the radical thinking that used “non-violent” confrontation and “love” as a means of achieving political goals. “Radical thinking is what allowed us to successfully challenge white racism and end discrimination,” Belafonte boasted. “By becoming radical thinkers, we won every battle.” Belafonte asserted that white racism was unable to withstand the power of their moral authority and, therefore, capitulated. Then Belafonte issued a challenge. “So because you were inattentive, the Koch Brothers and other neo-con billionaires have taken away your civil rights, the rights that we won for you. And, now, I want to know what you’re going to do about it?”
I was surprised that, even though loaded down with predatory student loans and facing a hostile job market, the youthful audience seemed willing to accept Belafonte’s unfair and blatantly false accusation. One black PhD candidate even asked the singer/actor for guidance in adopting the type of radical thinking that Belafonte claimed was missing in the current generation. “After I graduate,” the student said, “I’ll be paying off student loans while supporting myself. What do you suggest that I do to be relevant and still survive?” Though Belafonte rambled for ten minutes, he could offer no satisfactory response to the question.
Of course not. The student’s question was real and Belafonte’s lecture was theatre and not to be taken seriously. When he claimed that civil rights ‘won every battle,’ it was like the Nazis claiming that Richard Wagner’s operas were actual German history. When Belafonte challenges his youthful audience to follow in the footsteps of heroic civil rights activists and reject the practice of greed and excessive individualism, he poses a false dilemma. Neither of Belafonte’s depictions are real. The venerable actor gave a great performance but his historical rendition was false. In reality, the black leadership in today’s post-racial era is identical to the Negro leadership of the civil rights era. Black leadership of any era takes its orders from their white sponsors. Belafonte well knows that anyone truly advocating rights for black people will be subjected to ostracism, deprivation and incarceration; this is as true today as it was during the civil rights era.
For centuries, Europeans ‘bled’ their patents to cure illnesses and diseases. Physicians recommended the bloodletting and barbers, the actual surgeons, performed the procedure. When Harry Belafonte described how heroic civil rights leaders “won every battle” and regaled the students with stories of non-violence and love for white racists, he is like someone arguing that draining the blood of a seriously ill patient is an effective cure. “Non-violence” is nothing new. It has been taught ever since slaves began burning down their masters’ homes in the 1600s. At the time, slave masters recruited preachers to teach blacks to behave “non-violently.” For centuries, Europeans bled their patients and blacks loved their masters. Non-violence and bloodletting are both fatal to their practitioners. So the most generous evaluation of Belafonte’s “we won them all” statement is that he was probably in a recording studio or on a movie set while black people were being “bled.”
The former civil rights era was no different than the current post-racial era. America’s agenda, then as now, is the indiscriminate murder and the mass incarceration of black people. [Just as America’s international policy is the overthrowing of regimes, the plundering of resources and the killing of non-white peoples.] To advance their agenda, white folks use American institutions to subject the black community to racial profiling, economic deprivation and police oppression. [see: 93-Year-Old Black Woman Fatally Shot by Texas Officer http://www.dallasweekly.com/news/national/article_65b1415e-d6d3-11e3-8627-0017a43b2370.html] Miseducation, otherwise known as propaganda, is the key element in transporting black youth along the school to prison pipeline. As recently as 2011, studies show that less than 3% of blacks graduating from high school could read above the basic level, meaning that they can neither obtain, comprehend or apply any information that will help them improve their personal or group circumstances. The most important element in America’s racist agenda, however, is the active participation of a complacent, cowardly and corrupt black leadership. These people were chosen specifically because they would do as they were told.
The “mass incarceration” of black people has reached genocidal proportions. Accelerated by the government’s phony War On Drugs, black people have been arrested and incarcerated at rate 537 times more than white people. In her book, The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander claims that the mass incarcerations began in the 1980s with Ronald Reagan. Mass incarcerations actually began in the 1950s with Martin Luther King, Jr. In fact, as outlined in Gunnar Myrdal’s blueprint for genocide, An American Dilemma, the civil rights movement preceded the War On Drugs as a means of identifying and incarcerating thousands of young black people.
During the numerous sit-ins, marches and demonstrations called by Belafonte’s ‘heroic’ civil rights leadership, thousands of blacks were incarcerated but, unlike the preachers and civil rights leaders who made bail, the thousands incarcerated were never released. The civil rights leaders called for children to be beaten, hosed and bitten by dogs. The civil rights leaders called for children to be shot and bombed. But when the thousands were incarcerated and their parents lost their jobs and their families lost their homes, the civil rights leaders, receiving the gratitude of whites for their ‘love’, moved on. The thousands remained incarcerated, because, despite Belafonte’s mythology, ‘love’ did not win over a single white racist.
The actual facts surrounding the civil rights era are far different than the myths Harry Belafonte and others like to tell. For example, when the three civil rights workers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, were murdered in Oxford, Mississippi in 1964, Lyndon Johnson wanted answers and arrests. President Johnson was not an advocate of “non-violence.” So J. Edgar Hoover hired Mafia “hit men” to kidnap and “interrogate” local members of Ku Klux Klan. These interrogations led to the discovery of the murdered civil rights worker’s bodies and the arrest and conviction of their murderers. So much for Harry Belafonte’s out of the box, radical thinking. In fact, Lyndon Johnson and others orchestrated the entire civil rights movement for their own purposes. Handpicked Negroes were put in positions to do the bidding of someone who wanted to be re-elected president and to pursue a war in Indo-China. Truly radical black thinkers in organizations such as the Deacons For Defense, the Republic For New Africa, the African Blood Brotherhood, the Black Panther Party, Black Student Unions and the Black Muslims were incarcerated and assassinated. And when the handpicked Negro, Martin Luther King, Jr, got out of line, he suffered the fate of any other “radical” nigger at the hands of the FBI, CIA and US Army according to William Pepper’s book, An Act Of State. The truth of the matter is that black leadership has always been chosen for its cowardice and ignorance. Negro leaders during the civil rights era behaved no differently than today’s FBI snitches like Al Sharpton, coons like Allen West and entertainers like Harry Belafonte.